Bill would allow students to switch districts if their school only offers virtual learning

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Giving parents flexibility on where their children go to school during the COVID-19 pandemic is the goal behind a new bill at the state Capitol.

The new proposal is authored by state Sen. Chris Kapenga, a Republican from Delafield. It would allow parents to open enroll their children in a different school district for the 2020-2021 school year if their home district is not choosing their preferred instructional model.

Under current law, students may open enroll to another district only if they apply during the spring prior to a fall semester.

"We know that most kids learn best when they're face to face," Kapenga told CBS 58. "There are a lot of concerned parents out there who, if they want to make the decision to have their child get a face-to-face learning environment because that's how they feel their child learns best, we want to make sure they have the option should a school district choose to go virtual."

The bill also prevents the home district from forcing students to remain in the district by eliminating their ability to veto the move. It also removes the enrollment cap that currently limits how many students from a specific district can participate in the state choice programs and allows choice applications to be processed on a rolling basis throughout this coming school year, according to a news release from Kapenga's office.

The proposal is prompting questions from school boards about whether schools have enough space and personal protective equipment to handle more students from out of town and whether schools would still be able to safely open with in-person learning if they get an influx of non-resident students. Parents would likely be responsible for transporting their children to and from school if they are not enrolled in their home district.

Considering the state Legislature has not convened in months, CBS 58 asked Kapenga if the bill could pass in time for students to switch schools this semester.

"The Legislature very well may be back in session for a multitude of reasons. We are not completely closed out yet for the year, so this is obviously something where it's important enough for us that those kids get the best learning possible," Kapenga said.

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